Staff Writer
Jul 4, 2023

Brands need to ‘reboot’ their e-commerce strategies and lean into the power of experiential shopping

With the industry shifting to content-first commerce, brands should aim to delight by tapping into consumers’ experiential needs — as well as the tools to leverage them.

(L-R) Delilah Chan, head of brand partnerships, TikTok SEA; Rita Harnett, global head of D2C and social commerce, Wavemaker Global; Jack Timpany, e-commerce activation director, L’Oréal UK
(L-R) Delilah Chan, head of brand partnerships, TikTok SEA; Rita Harnett, global head of D2C and social commerce, Wavemaker Global; Jack Timpany, e-commerce activation director, L’Oréal UK
“E-commerce 1.0 is obsolete, and brands need to reboot.” Bold words, courtesy of Shant Oknayan, TikTok’s head of global business solutions, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. It is certainly thought-provoking — Oknayan, delivering an address at TikTok’s panel on new e-commerce trends at Cannes Lions, made the case for a new kind of e-commerce that delivers on shoppers’ functional and emotional needs. Technology has made it easy to purchase almost anything online and have it appear on our doorsteps with a few simple swipes. Taking out the hassle of physically going out to shop is a modern marvel embraced by many, but when it comes to commerce, there is now another paradigm shift.
Consumers may now enjoy greater convenience, but they have lost the joys of the shopping experience in return, such as the excitement of discovering new products along their shopping journey. E-commerce has become much too transactional, and savvy brands will understand the need to find new ways to engage with consumers. Instead of brands pushing their chosen messages onto target audiences, it is now consumers who are leading the way for brands. They want to feel involved, and for their shopping experiences to include the joy of discovery — an insight supported by GWI’s 2021 Connecting the Dots report, which revealed that one in three global consumers want commerce to be more entertaining. 
In a panel following Oknayan’s address, Rita Harnett, global head of D2C and social commerce at Wavemaker Global, observed that since the pandemic, e-commerce has evolved from being catalogue-centric to entertainment-driven. “Loads of people were starting to shop online [for the first time], but they weren’t engaging with brands,” said Harnett. In creating e-commerce solutions like TikTok Shop, TikTok is bridging the gap between commerce and entertainment for those consumers, tapping into their desires for entertainment, discovery, and community. 
TikTok Shop’s unique emphasis on discovery, compelling calls to action, and frictionless purchase experience encourages its community to complete purchases at a higher rate. By reducing the number of clicks in the purchase journey, TikTok Shop can help brands convert interest into sales, without shoppers ever having to leave the app. On the consumer end, this means the discovery process flows seamlessly into purchasing without being intrusive to the experience. It’s a model that has been very well-received, with popular TikTok Shop products spanning categories like beauty, books, pet care, and more.
For brands, opportunity lies in the fact that TikTok Shop content already has billions of views across engaged communities, and brands can easily tweak their messaging to suit the platform. By interacting with users in a way that feels native to TikTok, brands can organically insert themselves into these communities and place their products in front of consumers who are already inclined to interact, naturally driving them down the purchase funnel.
According to Kantar-conducted research,  92% of users take action after watching a TikTok video. This concept of entertaining content-driven commerce — also referred to as “shoppertainment” — is a particularly successful model in the APAC region, with a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report with TikTok projecting shoppertainment to have a trillion-dollar market value in Asia by 2025.
However, Jack Timpany, e-commerce activation director at L’Oréal UK, also observed during the panel discussion that consumers now enjoy selling as well as buying, by becoming advocates of the products they discover. Delilah Chan, TikTok’s SEA head of brand partnerships and moderator of the panel with Harnett and Timpany, agreed, “That’s what powers the post-purchase desire to make content like unboxings that goes back to getting more people interested.” For brands, this means that if a product is captivating enough, creators will readily promote it via virtual word-of-mouth.
Supplementing TikTok’s e-commerce solutions are video shopping ads and live shopping ads, which are hyper-relevant shoppable videos and livestreams of products being sold in real-time, respectively. 
Live shopping has seen high adoption rates within the APAC region, with the BCG report noting that Indonesian consumers prefer live format entertainment with real-time interactions. Timpany shared that L’Oréal has six content studios in Indonesia alone making livestream content around the clock, producing at least four short videos each day per brand. Livestream sessions, often hosted by creators, also feature unpacking segments, exclusive deals, and bundles, even offering giveaways to drive further engagement from consumers. With TikTok’s e-commerce tools, brands will also be able to track their campaign data, examine consumer intent and product interest among communities, then feed that information back into marketing efforts.
In this new era of commerce, brands should dial back the traditional transaction approach, and instead put the joy of shopping back into the digital path-to-purchase. Consumers themselves will start the conversation to purchase discovery, and brands should keep their ears to the ground and join in where they can.

(1) TikTok Marketing Science Global, Time Well Spent Custom Research, conducted by Kantar, March 2021


Campaign Asia

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